Sunday, July 22, 2012

A bend in the road is not the end of the road... unless you fail to make the turn.

       I started noticing a graceful senior citizen while exercising in the neighbourhood park a few months ago. She would come every day, a gentleman (I presumed he was her physiotherapist) holding her hand, talking to her gently and her husband walking slowly behind. She wore a brace on her right knee and I could see the massive effort it took just to put one foot in front of the other.

     Their progress was slow and I would keep passing them walking or jogging. I said hello and smiled a few times but one day noticed that she had covered a quarter of the circuit in a much shorter time than she used to. I couldn’t hold back my congratulations, we got to talking and she invited me home.

     Dr Sacchubai Palaniappan, a retired professor with the Dept. Of Polymer Science, Madras University had osteo-arthritis which flared up last year with both knees requiring surgery. From the time of her return last year in a wheelchair from a visit to the UK, to her now being able to walk a short distance without support is a journey whose hallmarks are grit and perseverance.

     Surgery, while restoring ability in her left knee, left her right one functional, but in pain. She had almost no will to face what was in store for her but the presence of her loving children and grandchildren were just what she needed to begin to hope for renewed good health. Physiotherapy started soon after, with walking every evening in the local park.

     It was at this stage I first saw her. Her devoted husband who is always at her side, shared that those initial days were very difficult since she had an intense fear of falling and hesitated to even stand up. She had to be reassured and motivated constantly. 

     The Physiotherapist who was by her side even before the surgery, played a critical role here – he encouraged, counselled and pushed her (figuratively) to keep doing her exercises and walking. He was there without fail, several days a week. His perseverance with Sacchubai was the origin of her own. She put her faith in God and overcame her fears, step by step – to the extent that when I asked her ‘does that fear remain?’ she promptly stood up without support, grinning! 

     Some points I took away from this moving encounter:

-          ANYBODY  can work to restore their health – you’ve just got to hang in there and go the distance. It could be recovering from cancer or even lowering your cholesterol levels for prevention.

-          We never truly realise the value of our health until we lose it. Get an annual medical check up. Don’t let seemingly small symptoms fester – get them diagnosed and dealt with professionally (Apart from Nutrition Therapy - Homoeopathy and Ayurveda are wonderful alternatives to Western Medicine / Allopathy). Take care of yourself – a healthy balanced diet and exercise are critical for long term health.

-          Family support, understanding and love is critical – Patients do not always have the sweetest disposition. When one is ill, ill temper and even depression tend to follow. It takes those who know you best to just love you and give you everything to live for. Her husband, Mr Palaniappan took over the care of the household as well as of her.

-          Healthcare is more than just hospitals and surgery – it’s about the people who support you and nurse you back to health. In this case, the Physiotherapist who was at Dr Sacchubai’s side regularly showed remarkable dedication and a sound, professional work ethic.

     Though she still has some more distance to cover on the road to health, Dr Sacchubai now has belief in herself and a healthy future. Feeling strongly about various social issues, she has a new future ahead and, having restored her health, will continue to make a difference to society.

This article was published in 'Life in Adyar', Chennai -  June 16th, 2012.

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